UMass men’s basketball to kick off Atlantic 10’s return to sports

  • The Atlantic 10 Conference tournament logo is imprinted on a ball used during an NCAA college basketball game between La Salle and Davidson in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament in New York, Friday, March 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) Mary Altaffer—AP

  • Atlantic-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade makes remarks at a past news conference in Philadelphia. UMass is slated to open the conference hoop schedule Dec. 9 against La Salle. AP File

Staff Writer
Published: 11/11/2020 7:46:55 PM
Modified: 11/11/2020 7:46:51 PM

The first Atlantic 10 sanctioned contest of the 2020-21 school year will feature UMass when Minutemen open the men’s basketball conference slate Dec. 9 at La Salle.

It will be the first A-10 conference game in any sport since the league canceled its men’s basketball championship in March, as well as the spring and fall seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They are carrying the banner of responsibility as the first A-10 sport to get going,” A-10 commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade said.

The A-10 announced its 18-game conference schedule Wednesday. That’s the same number of league games programs typically play, which was a conscious decision because of the way nonconference schedules were materializing.

The schedule actually resembles what it looks like in a typical year. The A-10 considered alternatives like increasing the number of conference games, a bubble or playing multi-game series over a weekend.

“Playing back to back at the same site from our national perspective didn’t seem like an optimal decision,” McGlade said. “We tried to be sensitive to needs of media partners, the needs of our campuses and what COVID was dictating.”

All teams will have two bye weeks between Jan. 13 and Feb. 24, and the conference deliberately left the week before the conference tournament open to allow for maximum flexibility in case of postponements or reshuffling. Adding more conference games to fill out schedules in case a team’s nonconference slate deteriorates is also a possibility.

The Atlantic 10 Conference Championship is scheduled for March 10-14 at the Barclays Center in New York. Its format is also subject to change. The conference can add or subtract teams or cancel the tournament and award its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament to the regular season champion if necessary.

“We’ve learned a lot from college football. The positive results and canceled games have occurred for the most part from outside environments or decisions unrelated to competition,” McGlade said. “You have to expect there’s going to be bumps in the road. When the full team and the staff are following the protocols those teams seem to be successful with avoiding positive COVID results.”

The league is following the NCAA’s guidelines for health and safety protocols, which includes testing for COVID-19 three times a week on non-consecutive days. McGlade said some institutions have stricter protocols. The A-10 won’t have a minimum threshold for a number of positive tests and subsequent quarantines that will require a postponement.

“The challenge with basketball is the squads are so small,” McGlade said.

There is no conference policy on fan attendance, so individual schools and communities will determine arena capacity.

UMass will play at the Mullins Center for the first time on Dec. 30 against George Mason. There will be no fans in attendance “until further notice,” the school announced Wednesday.

“The decision was made following consultation with local public health and university officials and in accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order prohibiting large capacity venues from opening to the public,” the release said.

The Minutemen have seven games on national television: four contests on NBC Sports, two on ESPN and one on CBS Sports Network. All of their games not part of the national television package will stream on ESPN+.

Men’s poll

UMass was picked to finish eighth in the A-10 preseason poll with 192 points. Richmond, last year’s runner-up, received 19 first-place votes and claimed the top spot with 380 points.

Sophomore big man Tre Mitchell, the reigning A-10 Rookie of the Year, earned preseason first-team all-conference honors. He’s also on the Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2021 Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Watch List.

The Minutemen were eighth in the A-10 last year and earned a first-round bye in the conference tournament for the first time since 2016.

Women’s poll

The Minutewomen were slotted seventh in the A-10 preseason poll after a fifth-place finish last year. They earned 118 points. VCU was picked first with 185 points and 10 first-place votes.

Senior forward Sam Breen, who was granted a sixth season of eligibility in September, is a preseason first-team all-conference pick

UMass A-10 Schedule

Times/TV TBA unless noted

Dec. 9 at La Salle

Dec. 30 vs. George Mason

Jan. 2 at Saint Louis (NBCSN, 6:30)

Jan. 6 at George Washington

Jan. 9 vs. La Salle (NBCSN, 4 p.m.)

Jan. 17 at Fordham (NBCSN, 4:30)

Jan. 20 vs. Saint Louis

Jan. 24 vs. Davidson (CBSSN)

Jan. 27 at VCU

Jan. 30 at George Mason

Feb. 3 vs. Fordham

Feb. 6 at Rhode Island (ESPN)

Feb. 9 vs. Dayton (ESPN)

Feb. 14 vs. St. Bonaventure (NBCSN, 2)

Feb. 20 at Duquesne

Feb. 24 at Saint Joseph’s

Feb. 27 vs. Rhode Island

March 3 vs. Richmond

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